Plan B (novel)

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First American edition
(publ. University Press of Mississippi)

Plan B is an unfinished novel published posthumously in America in 1993 by Chester Himes, which is the final volume in the Harlem Cycle. The story is even darker and more nihilistic than the preceding volumes, culminating in a violent revolutionary movement in the streets of America.

The first edition was published in France, in 1983 (Editions lieu commun), translated by Helène Devaux-Minié.

Plot summary[edit]

The story differs somewhat from the other volumes of the cycle in being less a detective story and more a surrealistic tale of a racial apocalypse in America. The story hinges on the efforts of community leader Tomsson Black to stir up racial tension in Harlem in order to force a radical change in race relations.

Major themes[edit]

In an interview, Himes once noted that he had wanted to "... depict the violence that is necessary so that the white community will also give it a little thought, because you know, they're going around playing these games. They haven't given any thought to what would happen if the black people would seriously uprise." [1]

Most notably, Plan B features the death of both of the protagonists of the Harlem Cycle. Gravedigger Jones kills Coffin Ed Johnson in a dramatic final scene, before being killed himself by Tomsson Black. Throughout the story, the usually level-headed Gravedigger gets caught up in the revolutionary fervor, while Coffin Ed is uncharacteristically skeptical and calm. It has been speculated that this seeming role reversal was deliberately designed to heighten the chaotic and surreal atmosphere of the book.[citation needed]